How to turn a hardback book into an e-reader case

book upcycled into e-reader
Book lovers lament the end of the printed page. I adore my iPad, but I do miss the weight of a thick novel and the feel of something organic in my hands. To make the transition to digital reading easier, I upcycle old books into cases for Kindles, Nooks and other e-readers. Here's how you can, too.

Materials & tools
  •  Used hardcover book in good condition
  • Thick mat board (1 ½ ft. square)
  • 1/3 yard cotton fabric
  • ¼ yard fleece or batting*
  • Small strip of fake leather or denim
  • Braided elastic, ¼” wide
  • Contact paper*
  • Velcro stick-on patches
  • Archival (neutral pH) adhesive
  • E-6000 glue
  • Wax paper
  • Awl
  • Small rivet
  • Box knife
* - optional

I. Preparing the book cover

1.  Gently clean the cover, removing dust and dirt. To remove ink marks and other stains, try using cleaning wipes -- just be careful not to bleach out colors.

2.  Carefully cut out the block of pages using a sharp box knife. You may need to cut out the front and back pages separately first. If possible, use one hand to pull the pages away from the spine while you slowly slice off the cover. Be careful not to push the blade too deep or you’ll cut the spine. Try aiming the blade toward the pages, away from the spine.
cutting off text block

cutting off text block
3. Snip off any extra fabric on the edge where the pages met the spine.
trimming extra paper
4. Without the text block, the book spine needs reinforcement. Out of the mat board, cut a rectangle just slightly smaller than the spine. Before gluing it down, make sure the two covers can open and close freely.
reinforcing spine
5. Apply archival glue to the back of the rectangle and press it down onto the inside spine. You need to position it correctly the first time, because the glue adheres almost immediately. Hold down the rectangle for a minute or two.

6.  To cover the inside spine and rectangle, cut one of the cover pages (which are usually thicker than the inside pages)  so that it’s about 3 times as wide as the spine. Before applying glue, lay the paper on top of the spine. Use a metal ruler to create a light fold on either side of the mat board rectangle.

7.  Apply the archival glue to the back of the paper and then press it onto the spine and inside covers. Before it dries completely, open and close both covers to make sure the paper is positioned correctly.

8. If you want to protect the inside and outside of the cover, wrap clear contact paper around them.  Be careful to avoid bubbles, wrinkles and fingerprints (yes, I’ve done them all).
covering book with Contact paper
9. To create a flap to keep the outside of the cover closed, cut two equal sized strips out of fake leather or other heavy fabric. The flap should be long enough to span the two covers with the reader inside (so at least 4” long and 1 1/4" wide). Sew the strips together, being careful to keep the top-stitching straight. Use an awl to pierce a hole in one end of the sewn strap.

10. On the back cover of the book, use the awl to pierce a hole about 1” away from the edge and halfway down. (Before making the hole, check to see what part of the front will be covered by the strip; you may want to adjust the position.)

11. Use a small rivet to attach the flap to the back cover. Put a velcro square on the end of the inside of the strip. Position the matching square on the front cover. (Note that you must attach the strip before you glue the padding to the inside.)
attach flap using a rivet

Preparing the lining

12. Cut two mat boards about 1/4" smaller than your e-reader (so for a basic Kindle, which measures 6 1/2" x 4 1/2", each mat rectangle should be 6 1/4" x 4 1/2"). 

13. If you want to add padding, cut two pieces of fleece or other soft fabric the same size and glue them (using the archival glue) to the mat boards.

14. Cut the fabric into rectangles about 1” larger (all the way around) than the mat boards. 

15. Lay each board onto a rectangle, fleece down. Make sure there’s an equal amount of fabric on each side. To make the corners lie flat, snip off each corner.
16. Apply archival glue to the edge of the board and carefully fold each fabric edge over. If necessary, use weights to hold down the corners.
17. Cut two lengths of ¼” braided elastic and sew the ends together.  I use lengths of 15" - 17", depending on the device. You can experiment by putting your e-reader on top of the mat board and wrapping the elastic around it.

18. Wrap the elastic around the corners of one mat board. Adjust the position until they are the same distance from each corner. On the back, put E-6000 glue under each "X" where the two elastic bands meet.

19. Wrap both covered boards in wax paper, place them on a flat surface, and put something heavy (like large books) on top to help the glue set. Let dry for at least 12 hours.

Putting it all together

After the glue has dried, the last step is to glue each mat board to the inside covers of the book. If the inside is covered with contact paper, use the E- 6000 glue; otherwise, the archival glue will work. Position the boards so that they mirror one another. 

Press each board down for a few minutes. Then cover with wax paper, put on a flat surface and put a heavy book on top. Let the glue dry at least 12 hours.
Tips for choosing a book

SizeLook for a book just slightly taller and wider than your device. Make sure it's at least 1" thick; for some devices (like the Kindle Fire), the book should be at least 1 1/2" thick. (See the chart below for current sizes.)

Illustrations: Most hardback books have plain fabric covers. If the fabric is an interesting color or is embossed, the book may be a good candidate.
book with fabric cover
To find a book with a vivid cover illustration, head toward the youth section of the bookstore. That's where you'll find Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden (if you're lucky), the Hardy Boys and more. These books have fun, retro illustrations. 

You can also find vintage books like these on Etsy, Ebay and Bonanza. One of my favorite sources is Jennifer's Series Books.
Dragnet book

Condition: The nice thing about upcycling an old book is that it doesn't matter if pages are missing or marked up. All that matters is the cover itself. And if you're willing to wrap the cover in Contact paper, then a few scratches or tears won't much matter. They may even add to the vintage feel.

Closures:  If you don't want to mar the front with a velcro square, you can put it on the inside instead. Stick it to the inside lining, and put the matching square on the outside of the strap.

As an alternative to velcro, you can use a button and cord instead. I used these to close this notebook, made out of an old pocket dictionary:
button closure

Dimensions of current e-readers & tablets

Here are the dimensions of iPads, Nooks, and Kindles (as of 9-8-2012), from the manufacturers' websites. Double-check your own device before you start cutting!

9.5” x 7.3” x 0.34”
9.5” x 7.3” x 0.37”

Kindle Fire
Fire HD
7.6 x 5.4 x .4
Kindle Fire
Fire HD 8.9
9.45 x 6.5 x .35
Kindle Fire
Fire 1.0
7.5” x 4.7” x 0.45”

Kindle e-reader
6.5 x 4.5 x .34
Kindle e-reader
6.7” x 4.6” x 0.36”
Kindle e-reader
6” display
6.5” x 4.5” x 0.34”
Kindle e-reader
6.8” x 4.7” x 0.40”
Kindle e-reader
7.5” x 4.8” x 0.34”
Kindle e-reader
10.4” x 7.2” x 0.38”

Color, Tablet
8.1” x 5.0” x 0.48
Simple Touch
6.5 x 5.0 x 0.47

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